South Carolina breaks nine-year drought, beats GW in first round
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- South Carolina topped George Washington 4-1 in NCAA tournament first-round action Saturday morning at North Carolina's Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center. The Gamecocks (16-13) won the doubles point and held off a late charge from the Colonials to post the program's first NCAA victory since 2005 and the first under head coach Josh Goffi.
The two teams battled it out in doubles but the Gamecocks were up a break in the Nos. 2 and 3 matches midway through. The Colonials rallied in the No. 3 match, but South Carolina's Kyle Koch and Andrew Adams stayed the course on court No. 2. After opening a 4-2 lead, the duo closed the match with another break to win 8-4. The two top teams were locked in a battle with neither able to crack the other's serve or gain momentum in the match. In the inevitable tiebreaker, GW's team of Francisco Dias and Julius Tverijonas struck first, opening a 3-0 lead on No. 30 Chip Cox and Tsvetan Mihov. South Carolina's top team fought back, winning the next three points on aggressive play from Cox at the net. Trailing 3-4, Mihov pounded home a pair of service winners to put the Gamecocks up 5-4, and Cox made it match point with another putaway at the net. George Washington fought off the first, but Cox's great serve set up Mihov for a crisp volley to close out the win 8-7 (5) and deliver the doubles point.
Singles opened with George Washington establishing an early advantage, but the Gamecocks were undeterred. Adams shook off an early service break at the top of the order to get back on serve three games into his first set with Dias, and Koch and Schafer did the same in the Nos. 5 and 6 matches, respectively. The tide slowly began to turn with Cox going up a break at 3-2 in the No. 4 match with Tverijonas.
The Colonials' Nikita Fomin took the first set from Mihov in the No. 2 match, but everything else was headed the Gamecocks' way. Just after Adams went up a break 6-5 at No. 1, Cox claimed his first set over Tverijonas 6-3 by winning three of the last four games. Schafer found his rhythm in the No. 6 match, turning his 0-2 deficit into a 4-2 lead, but Ulrik Thomsen fought back to 4-4 by the time Adams wrapped up his first set with Dias 7-5. Thiago Pinheiro was locked in a war with Danil Zelenkov in the No. 3 match, but the Gamecocks' emotional leader stayed the course and, like Adams, got a break to go up 6-5 then held on for the first-set win. Koch won his first set against Svensson with a dominant tiebreak 7-6 (3), and Schafer made it five first sets for the Gamecocks after winning a long-fought service break from Thomsen then serving for the set 6-4.
Fomin knotted the team score a 1-1 with a 6-3, 6-2 win against Mihov, but it was not enough to turn the tide in the Colonials' favor yet as Adams, whose game had worn down Dias in the first set, led 5-2 in the second and went on to hold at Love for the 7-5, 6-2 victory that put the Gamecocks back on top 2-1. After falling behind Tverijonas 1-2 in the No. 4 match's second set, Cox repeated his first-set comeback, winning five of the last six games to make it a 3-1 South Carolina lead with his 6-3, 6-3 victory.
The Colonials forced the Gamecocks to fight for the last point on the board as Svensson was up break on Koch in the No. 5 match and the Nos. 3 and 6 matches were on serve. Schafer was the first to surge ahead, breaking Thomsen in the No. 6 match to take a 3-2 lead. On the next court, Koch began his comeback from a 2-5 deficit, forcing a second-set tiebreak. He fell behind in the tiebreak 1-5 but again found a way to hold off Svensson, winning three consecutive points to pull within 4-5. Three points later, Svensson won the tiebreak, though, forcing a third set.
Pinheiro and Zelenkov were headed to a second-set tiebreak just as Schafer was set to serve for the match. Thomsen won the first two points as the Colonials' senior was hoping the young Gamecock would falter under the pressure of clinching the match. Drawing on his experience in a similar position in the SEC tournament second round, though, Schafer lifted his game. He fought off a break point then delivered the next two points, including a good serve followed by a deep forehand that prompted Thomsen to sail his long on match point.